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Justin Park / TripSavvy
Sneaker-like comfort and cushioning
Available in modern colorways
Not very agile
The Hoka One One Kaha boots are a modern, sneaker-style hiker that is waterproof, comfortable, and performs well when running on slightly rougher groomed trails.
We purchased the Hoka One One Kaha Hiking Boots so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Hoka One One (pronounced “oh-nay oh-nay”) is a French running footwear company that’s gained a massive following since their founding in 2009. Their distinctive shoes almost all feature an oversized outsole made of a thick pad of lightweight foam cushioning. I recently tested out the Hoka One One Kaha Men’s Gore-Tex Hiking Boot in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and foothills to find out if the legendary support translated from their running footwear to this mid-height hiker.
Read on to see how they performed.
Comfort and cushioning is the hallmark of the Hoka One One brand, so you’d expect it in the Kaha hiking boots, especially since they look the part with the signature thick foam midsole. And while they’re definitely a heavily cushioned hiker, they’re not quite as cloud-like as regular Hoka One One runners.
So if you’re a Hoka One One enthusiast expecting the usual plush ride, lower your expectations a touch. If you’re new to the brand, you’ll probably be impressed by how cushioned they are for a hiking boot.
The boots were comfortable right out of the box, despite the full-grain leather upper. This is likely thanks in part to the contoured insole and cushioning. I found the laces easy to make snug; which kept my foot in place and heel back, and gave my toes some room without sliding around in the toe box.
The fit was great on my slightly narrow foot, however, if you’re on the wide end of the spectrum, you may want to consider a different boot since the Kaha’s don’t currently come in wide varieties. I found the fit to be true to size. I tested a size 11 and it fit snugly with a little room around the toe.
Unlike some waterproof hikers, the Gore-Tex membrane didn’t automatically make my feet sweat.
Because of how tall the outsole is, I had some questions about how stable the boot would be. Would I be more likely to roll my ankle with a boot perched up so high? My experience was that the broader heel that mushrooms out underneath and a fairly wide toe platform make for a stable boot that mostly wants to rock front and back, not side to side.
I found that wearing reasonably thick socks made from natural materials is best when wearing the Kahas because the insole is fairly smooth and slick. Thinner socks, especially those made from synthetics, felt very slippery inside the boot.
I first realized that the Hoka One One Kaha hiking boots were more than just basketball shoes in earth tones when I saw the Vibram Megagrip outsole. While it isn’t a thick sole (the EVA foam midsole is thick enough), the tread has some fairly serious 5mm lugs for a shoe with a running pedigree.
Still, the Vibram doesn’t continue up the sides of the midsole unlike many other hiking boots, so the rubberized foam is exposed to impacts. While it felt tough to the touch and I didn’t experience any damage in my testing, I wonder about the long-term durability of the midsole layers if hiking off-trail and in rough conditions. They might hold up fine on well-traveled trails, but several online customer reviews warned of durability issues and I’m curious to see how they stand up to abuse on less manicured trails over time.
While the traction of the Vibram sole seemed effective, one gripe I had with the performance was that the thickness of the sole from heel through toe made it harder to feel the ground and enjoy that tactile feedback as you hike. That, of course, is the point of the extra padding which makes it easier to just keep on trucking, even when descending rocky terrain. If you prefer a thinner-soled trail running type of shoe, this may be too much cushion for you.
The broader heel and fairly wide toe platform make for a stable boot that doesn’t rock from side to side.
I ran a bit in these and found that they were at their best when moving fast in one direction. Trail running or fast hiking in more technical situations off-trail where each step is a choice and you have to carefully select your footfalls is better done in a more minimalist trail running shoe. The Hokas are somewhat challenged in lateral movements, especially because of their platform stature, and are at their best mowing down obstacles in one direction on fairly groomed trails.
Unlike some waterproof hikers, the Gore-Tex membrane didn’t automatically make my feet sweat, even when worn indoors for extended periods of time. The Kaha GTX (like any Gore-Tex boot) features a membrane that’s designed to let vapor out but keep water from getting inside the boot. Since the waterproofing layer is inside other materials, a hiking boot can appear wet but still be waterproof.
This was my experience hiking a trail with patches of snow. The leather upper appeared to get wet, but my feet remained dry inside. Unlike a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating on, say, a ski jacket, this Gore-Tex membrane doesn’t mean water will bead up and roll off of the boots. Sealing boots in that manner will make them run hotter and will be less breathable, so they’re usually reserved for winter boots or work boots where breathability is less essential.
The tongue is only gusseted to about the point of articulation on the ankle, so the waterproofing technically ends there since there’s a break in the material. That said, I didn’t fully submerge the boot to find out. However, I didn’t experience any leakage into the boot while testing it in mostly wet and muddy conditions.
Probably the first thing anyone will notice about these boots is the signature thick midsole unique to Hoka One Ones. Despite a minimalist logo, it’s easy to spot that these are Hokas from a distance thanks to the sole.
Outside of that, the Kaha’s look like modern hikers: they’re streamlined, aren’t bulky, have athletic laces, and feature suede instead of glossy leather. There are seven colorways and most of them have at least a few small pops of bright colors paired with olive, tan, and gray earth tones. They’re also available in black and desert monochromatic versions if you prefer something more versatile. While these hiking boots aren’t high fashion, the Kahas could definitely be worn casually in any situation where an athletic-style shoe is acceptable.
I ran a bit in these hiking boots and found that they were at their best when moving fast in one direction.
Retailing around $220, these aren’t cheap hiking boots, but they are on par with others in the same trail runner/hiker category. The Danner Mountain 600 (see more below) and the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker boots are similar in construction and style, and both retail for about $20 less than the Kahas.
Both of these boots are hybrid, sneaker-style mid-height hikers. However, Hoka One One is coming to hiking boots from the running world and Danner is a hiking boot company that makes sneaker-like hikers. The Danner 600 looks more like a hiking boot with a full brown suede upper and traditional metal D-ring lace loops for a classic look. Otherwise, they’re very similar in price and build. Both feature low-profile Vibram soles and thicker foam midsoles for a hiking boot that performs more like a trail running shoe. Go with the Danner if you prefer a hiking boot that has more traditional styling.
The Hoka One One Kaha Hiking Boots are a great option for those that love the Hoka brand and for people that are looking for a hiking boot that’s ready to run in slightly rougher terrain.
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